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We know one thing after Sunday's brutal 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild at Gopher Stadium in the Twin Cities (if that isn't what it's called it should be): The Hawks have had enough of outdoor games. And no wonder, they've played more of these goofy contests than anyone else in the NHL.
There are plenty of other hockey teams that haven't had the chance to experience the spectacle, the pageantry, the potentially brutal weather conditions (folks were fortunate yesterday - it could have easily been so much colder - and if that had been the case, would this really have been fun for anyone?). It is time to give the Hawks a break from the Stadium Series for a while.
Another thought about the weather: I get it that the biggest potential problem faced by the people who organize these things is rain. Snow is a problem as well but any sort of rain ruins the ice in a hurry. In anything short of a blizzard, officials can figure out how to get a game played. Rain means no game.
But scheduling an outdoor event in Minnesota in February is just nuts. I know you essentially eliminate the rain factor but still, if you are going to do games like this, do them in December or March. Skip January and February for goodness sakes.
Back to the Hawks: Fortunately they do get a break in the schedule early this week. In fact neither the Hawks nor the Bulls play either Monday or Tuesday night and it will be Thursday before the Blackhawks are back in action on home ice against the Preds.
This is where Dallas finally makes up the games they've had in hand. The standings have been tilted for a while because the Stars have played two, three or even four fewer games than the Hawks at any given time during the past month.
The Hawks, with their 81 points, are one ahead of Dallas, which has played two fewer games. And don't look now but here come the Blues, who are only two points back with one game in hand. As usual, the Central Division is much better than the Pacific in the Western Conference.
So even though the Hawks, Stars and Blues have the best point totals in the conference, the team that finishes third in the division won't even have home-ice advantage in the playoffs in the first round because the second- and third-place finishers in a given division are paired against each other no matter what.
Hopefully it all adds up to incentive to keep pushing for every point until the end of the season. Already the poisonous "maybe they should take it easy a little bit" stories have started cropping up. The theory is that if the Hawks are sitting pretty at least in terms of making the playoffs, maybe they should rest guys and not try their hardest so they'll be healthier in the playoffs.
No, no and no. Let's review: Teams that ease up on the gas late in seasons often find that they can't find the accelerator once they decide they want to try their hardest again. Case in point: Peyton Manning would have a better case for being the GOAT (greatest of all time) if his Colts teams hadn't so frequently tanked late-season games after clinching playoff position and then found that when they got to the playoffs, they couldn't just crank it back up at will. A franchise that at the very least should have won multiple Super Bowls during the Manning years ended up with the single, lonely championship over Rex Grossman and the Bears in 2006.
Far, far better to battle until the end to finish as high as possible in the standings. Now, if, say, a 37-year-old Marian Hossa suffers an injury (which he did recently, sidelining him for at least a couple weeks), I'm not saying I don't keep him out an extra game or two or to make absolutely sure he is as healthy as can be when he comes back.
But no way should any healthy player ever sit out a game. Period. End of story. Enjoy your time off, Hawks, and rest assured that you won't have to worry about the wind chill at anymore of your games this season.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.
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